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Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools
1300 19th St., N.W. Suite 330, Washington. D.C. 20036 (202) 833-4766

February 1999

Superintendent Proposes School Funding Reform Using Weighted Student Formula

New School Profiles Help Compare Schools

Parents Hold Education Summit

School Modernization Meeting

An Academic and Financial Profile of Our Schools

Title 1 Parents Have Rights — Use Them!!!

The DC Collaborative for Educational Reform


FEBRUARY 20, 1999
(yes, it's a Saturday!)

1 Judiciary Square, 1st floor Council Chambers
(Judiciary Square Metro stop — red line)
9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Call the Office of Policy and Evaluation to get on the speaker's list

Parents, here's your chance to tell the new Mayor what you want to see in the public schools. If DCPS were given $15 million more money (from a huge city surplus), the school system would be able to equalize the amount given to secondary students with what is proposed to be spent on elementary students (see weighted student formula article below). Asking the Mayor and Control Board for more money for the school system makes sense to us. Remember, be clear in your presentation, and if possible, bring copies


If Superintendent Ackerman's proposed Weighted Student Formula (WSF) is approved by the Control Board, individual schools will be funded in FY 2000 (next year) by a per pupil dollar amount based on the number and characteristics of students. The principal and a management team including parents and teachers will determine how to spend $330 million allocated for local school control. WSF funds will cover school staff, including custodians, and school supplies and materials. Central control will remain over other school-based resources, such as textbooks, substitutes, special ed therapeutic services, summer school, athletics, instructional technology, utilities, facilities maintenance, security, food service and roving engineers.

Ms. Ackerman wants to focus resources on the early years, providing smaller classes, and her formula weights PreK - grade 3 students most heavily. The proposed base amount per student is $3,479 with weightings for pre-K - 3 at 115%; grades 4 - 5 at 110%; and grades 6 — 12 at 100%. Extra money would be provided for special education by level, ESL, free and reduced lunch students, and for students scoring Below Basic in grades 6 — 12. Currently, average per pupil spending exclusive of special education and ESL is about $3,800 per student in elementary/middle/junior high and $3,930 in high school. Under the WSF, the average for an elementary student would rise to almost $4,200; average middle school would decrease a little; and the average senior high amount would sink to about $3,750. Most of the rest of the United States and the English speaking world spend more on high school students.

The proposed formula is not based on an analysis of the actual cost of educating a child by grade. Many school have special programs that may be hurt by the formula, because classes are small and cannot support the cost of the teacher(s). Under our present funding structure, few high schools offer the third or higher year of foreign languages, and half of the middle/junior high schools surveyed had no foreign language offerings. Few of our high schools offer advanced academic courses. The system has reduced, almost by half, the number of occupations students can learn. Career programs in building trades, landscaping, fashion design, robotics have been eliminated. Indeed, the M.M. Washington LPN program no longer has DCPS funding for the work experience that allowed students to graduate with their LPN degree as well as a high school diploma.

The benefits of a formula include incentives for principals to make efficient use of resources and a more equal allocation of money to the various schools. The flexibility that lets the management team develop an academic program tailored to the students may inspire principals and teachers and increase parent commitment to the school. Additional funding for poor, low achieving, special education and ESL students provides incentives to enroll, rather than to discourage them from attending a school.

Because of such considerations, the elected Board of Education has voted to support the concept of the Weighted Student Formula but asks the Superintendent to delay implementation to consider equal weighting of all grade levels but Pre-K and kindergarten (which need to be higher); supplemental funding for citywide vocational, arts and academic programs, allocation of custodians by building space rather than per pupil, and seeking sufficient funding to provide an excellent education for students at all grade levels.

Parents United has materials on the WSF that you may obtain by calling us at 202-833-4766. We urge you to learn more about the formula and to express your opinions about it to Superintendent Ackerman, your elected Board of Education, the Emergency Board of Trustees, the Mayor, the Council and the Control Board. START by testifying at the Mayor's Hearing on the DCPS FY 2000 Budget on February 20.

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DC Public School Profiles for all public schools under the supervision of the Superintendent were released on February 3rd. All parents should receive their child's school profile from the school. The total two volume set covering all schools, Elementary and Secondary, is available in public libraries around the city.

The Profiles give parents some of the information needed to understand the character of their child's school. Key indices of school improvement are "Migration from Below Basic" and "Migration into Proficient" in English and math. Also included are enrollment, attendance, percent of students promoted each year, percent of students in special education, free or reduced lunch, ethnic makeup, and Stanford 9 test scores. The number of administrative and instructional staff and their educational level are also included. The Profile also includes the principal's description of special programs available in the school.

The profiles are a first effort for this administration. Please tell the Superintendent the information you want to see in later Profiles. To make academic comparisons between high schools, the public needs to see a list of advanced placement courses available in the school, the scores on AP tests, the higher level courses offered in the school and number of students taking them, as well as the special academic and career programs available in each school. We should be given the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) scores for college bound seniors -- the median score, the range of scores and the number of students in the 90th percentile. Average class size, teacher load by subject, library books per student, students per computer, size of the building and its student capacity and the grade point average for students are also needed in the profiles.

Ms. Ackerman acknowledged that the profiles should allow parents to be able to choose among schools, and she hopes they will encourage low performing schools to improve achievement. Although these profiles are not as comprehensive as those developed by the D.C. Committee on Public Education, we are pleased that the administration has taken this first step to provide this important information.

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Parents 350 strong said "We want it all!. at the December 1st Education Summit convened by Parents United. We want an outstanding school system with music and math, PE and foreign languages, well paid teachers and enough supplies for all!

The Summit allowed the newly reconstituted city government to focus on education. The elected School Board was there in force with only Ward 3's Don Reeves absent, and Nate Howard represented the Board of Trustees. Mayor Elect Williams was represented on the dais, and representatives of the Control Board, Superintendent and Council were in the audience taking notes.

On special needs: Fix special education so that students get the services they need without having to sue the system to get needed help from private schools. Provide smaller classes, taught by excellent teachers using a rigorous curriculum with sufficient books and supplies so teachers don't have to buy them. Meet the needs of language minority students so that they can become assets to our community more quickly. Adopt and fund a comprehensive plan to rebuild our schools so they accommodate modern technology, are safe, healthy, and accessible to the handicapped; then maintain them properly.

On accountability: Teachers should be evaluated during the first quarter so that any problems are detected early and help can be provided. Principals should be accountable for real observations of teachers and the system should be accountable for real observations of principals. Charter schools should be monitored to make sure they provide what they promise.

Parent decision-making: Parents want the system to require their active involvement. They want a voice in decisions made at the school and systemic levels at the earliest stages rather than at the end when we can only object and try to prevent implementation.

City leaders must join together to support schools. Parents are excited by the elected School Board's enthusiastic embrace of this effort to bring the Mayor, Control Board, and Council and Board of Trustees together to improve our schools. The Education Summit was a good first step but only a first step.

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Ten DCPS schools are about to undergo modernization-some will be rebuilt entirely and some completely renovated. The Washington Parent Group Fund, the 21st Century School Fund and the Board of Education are holding a meeting on February 18th at Noyes Elementary School (2725 10th St., NE--between Evarts and Franklin Sts) to discuss the many issues that surround this modernization plan. The ten schools (all but one elementary schools) are: Cleveland (Ward 1), Thomson (Ward 2), Key (Ward 3), Barnard (Ward 4), Noyes (Ward 5), Miner (Ward 6), Randle Highlands (Ward 7), Patterson (Ward 8), as well as Oyster bilingual school and Evans/Kelly Miller Middle School (the last two were selected for rebuilding previously. Presentations and discussion will include:

  • The kinds of spaces your school needs
  • How principals, staff and parents can participate in the design process
  • An overview of the planning, design and construction process.

For more information, or to RSVP, please call Sheila Galagan at the 21st Century School fund at 832-3970 or 832-0188.

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We have enclosed two tables on the following pages — school-by-school profiles of last year's academic attainment and this year's funding. How are your school's test scores? How is your school using its extra funds to increase achievement? What can you do about it?

[These charts are not available on-line.]

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If your child is in a Title 1 school and you want to be an involved parent, you are in luck. As shown in the tables on the previous pages, Title 1 funds can be a substantial resource to a school. The weight of the Federal Government is behind you when planning how to use those funds to improve the education provided in your school.

Every Title 1 school must have a written parent involvement policy (compact) that clearly describes how parents will be involved in deciding how Title 1 money is spent and how the school program is designed. Parents must help develop the policy, approve it, and receive a copy. The compact can even be individualized to address the specific needs of each child.

If parents do not sign off on their Title I plan. the plan is not legitimate. Principals cannot spend Title 1 monies without the approval of the parents.

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The D.C. Collaborative for Educational Reform is sponsoring some upcoming forums. On Wednesday, February 23, 5 - 8 pm there will be a forum entitled Friday Night at the Emergency Room. This will be a simulation that will introduce participants to the language, concepts and tools of Systems Thinking/Systems Dynamics. On Tuesday, March 2, 5–7 pm the forum is entitled Organizing for School Reform: A National Perspective. Barbara Traveras of the Hazen Foundation will present an overview of school reform efforts nationally. On Saturday, March 6, 1–3 pm Bob Peterson, editor of Rethinking Schools and teacher at Fratney Bilingual School, will describe how teacher councils were established in Milwaukee and the role they played in engaging teachers in all aspects of curricula reform. Asking the Right Questions, at a date to be determined later, will be a hands-on workshop on how parents, teachers and community activists can ask "the right question" when advocating for their own children or for children in general. All forums are free and open the public. They will be held at 2225 Georgia Ave., NW. Please call 202-238-2379 for more information.

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